Chalk Skulls & Vodka

The Chiltern Hills in England are made of chalk. Friday night Sean collected armfuls of the rocks from a building site that were bound for the skip.

Balls of chalk rolled from Sean’s arms onto the kitchen table like dusty skulls. We took them in hand and wrote each other love notes on the house – ephemeral words that would rinse away in the rain and return to the ground again.

Sean had a hunch that the chalk could be ground into powder to make luminescent geisha foundation so we looked up recipes and here’s what we found:

1. Grind chalk to a fine powder
2. Add vodka & let dry (to help caking)
3. Mix with a little coconut oil if you want a cream

We became a little inebriated making our make-up cake. Foundation ground from the foundation of the house.

By Saturday, all of Sean’s workman’s clothes were hanging on the line to dry in the back garden, and Sean’s face and body glowed with homemade powder. He rubbed it over ripped nylon bodysuits and skin.

I love his transformation into dusty sculpture / rag doll / mannequin – the way he plays with distortions of the human form and gender.


His artistic self-portraits are becoming popular and well-loved by violin-makers, corset-designers, Parisian socialites, period gown enthusiasts, and lovers of the macabre.

In one self-portrait he holds a chalk-skull at arm’s length, like Hamlet.


I love that Sean is a handyman electrician by day, coming home with dirty gloves, sawdust in his hair, and a sweaty, stained T-shirt. At night we work on our editing business, but by day he’s always got a tool in his hand; a drill, shovel, wheelbarrow, etc. Or a whole tree.


His work gloves are trained to the shape of his hands. Underneath, his fingers are often wrapped in blue electrician’s tape.

When he’s stepped out of his workman’s clothes in the evening, he sits at the piano and plays Bach’s Goldberg Variations with bandaged hands, his fingers clumsy and mute and sore. As his fingertips heal, so does Bach.

I’m tickled that my love trades a drill for a mortar and pestle and makes cosmetic foundation from the rock foundation of a dilapidated house.

He’s so cool. I could spend a lifetime writing poems about him.

I think I will.

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